Yuma, Arizona--A 100th Birthday is a great reason for a Celebration

.. By Joe Hilbers

Yuma, Arizona is celebrating its Centennial Celebration and This Writer was there to take part in the 100 year birthday event. Many festivities are taking place as part of the celebration.

Yuma is located at a crossroads of the Colorado River that has been used for many centuries. Before the building of several dams the Colorado was a mighty river and finding fording places was difficult. So this crossroads and ford has been used by Native Americans, then the Spanish Explorers and finally for American expansion of the west and building of the railroad.

But officially the City was incorporated in April 1914. One evening we gathered at the Yuma Art Center where an historic collection of photographs were on display. Much of this collection, dating back to Yuma's earliest times, was from the Casa De Coronado Museum, the work of John and Yvonne Peach. Part of the Arts program that evening was the entrance of the Yuma Fire Department's Drum and Bagpipe Corp.

This crossroads on the Colorado River has been the location where some memorable movies were made and these are all being shown again as part of the Festival. They include Road to Morocco, Spaceball, Star Gate, 3:10 to Yuma, Jarhead and The Getaway.

Aviation has played a large role in Yuma's history. It was the first touchdown on the initial flight across the Continent which took 55 days. During World War 2 Yuma played host to soldiers and air force personnel from nearby bases. It is now home to the Marine Corps Air arm. Also the "City of Yuma" was the name of the plane that set a flying endurance record in 1949.

Clear evidence of this is a visit to City Hall where, hanging from the ceiling, is the City of Yuma that set that endurance record. The promotion was put together by the Junior Chamber of Commerce with the concept of promoting 'Yuma as the place that offered 365 days of flying weather a year'

Two ex Navy pilots flew the plane that was refueled in flight by a 1948 Buick Convertible. The fuel tanks were passed up to the plane while in flight. It lasted 47 days, from August 24 to October 10 and flew 1124 hours and 14 minutes non stop for a new record. The plane actually flew 89,000 thousand miles and was refueled 1500 times without mishap. With the plane at City Hall is the Buick that did the refueling.

Yuma is the hub for one of the nation's most productive agricultural areas thanks to year round sunshine and Colorado River water. In winter the region provides 95 per cent of the entire nation's leafy fresh vegetables.

We journeyed to the hinterland one morning with David Mansheim to learn about palm trees and date growing. He is manager of the Bard Date Company and president of the Bard Valley Medjool Date Growers Assn.

Several miles from the City we arrived at a grove of palm trees that extended in rows offering a lush green in shady splendor. David had a lot to tell us. There are both male and female trees with the male trees providing the pollen for the female trees. This pollination is not left to chance. The pollen is gathered from the male trees, treated and then sprayed onto the female trees. In the grove we saw, which had hundreds of trees, the ratio is one male tree to 50 female trees which actually grow the dates. There is one crop a year with harvest in September.

Later in the day we visited the Bard Date store in downtown Yuma called Basket Creations & More. This is operated by Dave's wife, Debra and children son Ryan and daughter, Megan. Here we sipped a date milk shake. The downtown store is located at 245 S. Main Street and is open all year. Telephone 928 341-9966.

Still wearing our farmer hat we next visited The Peanut Patch which has been a Yuma landmark since 1952. Owner Donna George was there to give us a briefing on what peanut bushes look like, how they grow and are harvested and what the peanut process entails. Donna took over in 1997. The bushes are planted in early Spring and then turned over to be field dried before gathered in the Fall by a mechanical harvester.

The peanuts are then sorted for quality and planned use. We were surprised to learn Spanish peanuts are from the same plant. The Peanut Plant processes the peanuts and also makes peanut butter and peanut brittle on the premises as well as a large selection of chocolate confections. The Peanut Plant is located at 4322 E. County 13th Street. On the web at www:peanutpatch.com.

Yuma, like many other cities, rediscovered its old movie theater, which was built in 1912. It was renovated, remodeled and again open in 2010 as part of the City's Park and Recreation Dept. Patrick Quinn, who is Theater production supervisor, was our guide as we toured the theater with its colorful murals and beautiful wood floors. There is seating for 630 including balcony. The theater has a large stage, has new digital movie equipment, and is equipped for live shows and music groups. Patrick has been supervisor for ten years and also manges the adjacent art center which offers artist workshops and classes including a pottery room complete with kiln. There are also dance classes. One evening we saw a whole group of girls in ballet togs arriving for class. The Center also displays works of local artists.

Locals and visitors alike have some outstanding facilities for play and pleasure. The Yuma Civic Center provides both with a huge amount of space for social events like reunions, banquets and weddings. In all there are seventeen rooms which can be used for private events with in house catering. Carrie Ring, Events Specialist, and Stephanie McMillin explained all to us adding that it has been serving the community since 1974. Adjacent is the Desert Hills Golf Course which has been named Arizona's best Municipal Course. Also at the course is Hills Restaurant, bar and lounge which offers both indoor and outdoor patio dining.

Located adjacent is the Desert Sun Stadium where the 2014 third annual Taco Festival took place. Fifty three taco stands were set up for people attending a Music Fest. Also there was a taco cookoff with 28 competing for honors with a team of judges deciding the winners.

Our stay at Best Western Coronado Motor Hotel was both pleasant and very informative. When John and Yvonne Peach took over the motel he was one of the ten businessmen that first organized Best Western which has become a symbol for outstanding lodging.

Yvonne Peach loves history and over decades amassed artifacts and memorabilia of the City of Yuma as well the story of the Coronado Motor Hotel. To this end she used the original house on the property to house them and named it the Casa de Coronado Museum. We toured the museum and were amazed at the story it tells. Each room displays a history of both the Hotel and several decades of the 20th century.

One room shows the office of an earlier era complete with telephone switchboard. Another shows early office tools and appliances like calculators, typewriters, early TV, phonographs and cameras. The kitchen takes one back to a wood cook stove and matching utensils and appliances. Another gives the history of Best Western and the many awards garnered by the Coronado Motor Hotel through over fifty years.

In the next issue of Vittles we will tell of our tours of the Yuma Territorial Prison State Historical Park and the Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park.

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Last Update:4/20/14

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